U3A member Robin Dewell on a horrific crash at Croydon Airport:
14 BURNED TO DEATH IN AEROPLANE
KLM Liner Crashes in Fog a Mile from
AUTOGIRO INVENTOR A VICTIM
One of the worst disasters in the history of early aviation occurred on December 19 1936 when a K.L.M. Douglas DC-2 crashed into an empty semi-detached house in Hillcrest road, Purley, and burst into flames. Less than a mile from Croydon Airport the giant Liner had taken off just a few minutes earlier in mid-morning.
The dead included Senor de la Cierva (below left) the inventor and developer of the Autogiro.
The aeroplane's conventional engine and propeller would enable it to move forward and take off as normal. Air flowing past the rotor would turn it like the sails of of a windmill creating sufficient lift upon the wing-like rotor blades to raise the aircraft into the air and keep it there.
Whilst correct in theory, Cierva's early prototype (a five-bladed version) tended to turn over on its side due to uneven lift. To overcome this Cierva devised attaching the blades to the rotor head via “flapping hinges“ which varied the lift between advancing and trailing rotor blades.
The development of the autogyro was a very necessary step forward in the progress of helicopters.
The C.8L became the first rotorcraft to cross the English Channel between Croydon and Le Bourget, on September 18 1928.